Studying overseas isn’t cheap, and financing an MBA outside your native country can pose certain challenges. The key is to be proactive, plan ahead and know where to look for financial assistance. China Economic Review analyzes funding options for both foreign MBA students coming to China, and Chinese students who take their MBAs abroad.
Start by trawling business school websites and speaking with admissions staff about merit-based scholarships, which are often readily available and vary in value. Scholarships at Fudan University’s School of Management can cover as much as full tuition for applicants with outstanding GMAT scores, said Janet Guo, the school’s international MBA admissions director.
At China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), scholarships are awarded to 30-35% of foreign students every year. “It is a policy of offering a little bit less to a lot more people,” said Carlos Zapata, a Peruvian MBA student at CEIBS.
Try to think outside the box. Students can also find scholarships based on their locality, nationality or industry of work. For example, a number of La Caixa Bank scholarships are available to Spanish students, said Sarah Fang, MBA admissions director at CEIBS. Meanwhile, Bosch – one of many companies that are keen to sponsor MBA students – makes scholarships available to those with experience in engineering, sales and purchasing.
International MBA candidates coming to China may also be eligible for government awards. “A number of scholarships are awarded every year by the Beijing municipal government,” said Jia Ma, marketing and admissions director of MBA programs at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management. The Shanghai municipal government also offers scholarships to MBA students worth US$15,400-24,700 per annum.
At the national level, China Government Scholarships can be equally lucrative. Candidates should contact their school’s MBA admissions office, or refer to the China Scholarship Council (CSC) website for more information. Zapata warns that the process can be long and tedious. “It’s all about trying to make early applications to get those funds,” he said.
International student loans from Chinese banks are currently limited, although China Development Bank is planning to launch education loans for students from developing countries. As such, foreign students should seek supplemental funding in their home countries, such as low-interest student loans.
Zapata, for example, took out a student loan to help cover half of his tuition. “As banks are seeing less risk involved with studying in a developing region like China, interest rates on student loans are becoming more affordable,” he said.
Additional resources for financial assistance for foreign students include Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for US citizens, and Credilia for Indian students, Ma said.
Furthermore, as the global economy teeters back toward recovery, Chinese business schools say the number of MBA students who are sponsored by their companies is returning to pre-recession levels. Still, corporate sponsorship remains the exception and not the rule, accounting for only 9% of candidates at CEIBS this year.
The financing option seems to be more attainable among Japanese and Korean students. Brian Lee, a Korean international MBA student at Fudan, said his company Daewoo Securities Investment Bank funds three employees to study their MBA in China every year.
“It is a great opportunity for the company to expand our network in China and understand Chinese business culture,” Lee said.
A free ride may be bittersweet though, as it requires a strong commitment from students. Chalisa Siriswatdibutr, an IMBA student from Thailand at Fudan, has a full scholarship from Kasikornbank, where she is required to work after graduation for double the length of her studies.
Chinese student options
As many MBA students from China often make financial arrangements with their families even before applying, “it is rare that a Chinese student will come to us with concerns about funding,” said Arthur Redillas, associate director of marketing and admissions at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.
That’s not to say that financial assistance isn’t available. Each year about 30% of Sauder’s students – both domestic and foreign – receive scholarships. Redillas said full scholarships for an MBA are extremely rare, but they can usually cover 10-75% of tuition. “The average scholarship helps fund 20% of tuition,” he said.
Chinese students should also take advantage of the fact that they are increasingly sought after by business schools. William Davila, Asia-Pacific director for Madrid’s IE Business School, said that the school has special scholarship programs for Chinese nationals that cover 50% of tuition.
“Ultimately, [Chinese students] should expect to pay for about a quarter of education fees themselves. I did it from savings,” said Li Chengcheng, an MBA student at IE Business School. “For the rest, look for scholarships and loans.”
Another strategy is to choose a school with the most convenient payment plan, which can be as diverse as MBA programs themselves. While some schools require 75% of fees paid upfront, others accept monthly installments.